Given the inability of the U.S. Senate to liberate the American people from a costly, wasteful, inefficient and inhumane system of for-profit health care that benefits no one except private insurance companies - a failure that like the failure of the Founding Fathers to deal with the bane of slavery will assume biblical proportions in the years ahead - what are the chances this same cabal of 100 of the country’s more fortunate citizens will get behind the idea that Internet gambling should be the law of the land?
Slim, I’d say, based on the history. Even slimmer, looking ahead to November’s congressional elections. I’d rank the chances right up there with the likelihood of the California Legislature finding a way to legalize Internet poker over the opposition of the state’s $7 billion Indian casino industry.
But none of this will stop Barney Frank.
To give the congressman the benefit of the doubt, though, I’ve been wrong before. For example, I’d managed somehow to lull my more cynical side into believing that after 60 years of trying, that mired in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, with unemployment the highest it’s been in a generation, with the national debt adrift in the stratosphere, with the residential housing market, the backbone of the economy, having collapsed about our ears, we’d finally come together as a nation on something as basic as everybody having the same access to medical care, regardless of their job status or ability to pay.
This is a country where people came to school libraries to attend forums on health care reform carrying guns and waiving the Confederate battle flag, where the philandering of an absurdly rich golf pro is national news, where a semiliterate veg-o-matic huckster like Glenn Beck is a political sage, where Sarah Palin is presidential timber.
Yes, it’s devolved into rather a silly place, that is, unless you’re poor or part of the growing ranks of the working poor or you’re sick or out of work or on the receiving end of our wrath or our Air Force. This is not only unfortunate, it’s downright creepy, because we’re an empire of some 300 millions of people, we bestride a continent, we’re still the world’s biggest economy, still the guys with the most bombs.
And speaking of silly, here we are, just a year or so after the bankers nearly blew up the planet, and you’d think Barney Frank, who chairs the Financial Services Committee of the House of Representatives, would have more than enough to occupy his time. But if you thought that you might be one of those people who thought universal single-payer health care made too much sense to be denied. Either way, you’d be wrong. Frank believes in a universal system for the fostering and protection of gambling on the Internet. It doesn’t matter that providing gambling on the Internet is illegal under a battery of federal and state laws, or that the U.S. Justice Department has been enormously successful in prosecuting offenders and confiscating hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains, or that soon we’re going to need two hands to count the times the congressman has failed to get Web gambling legalized, both as a member of the minority party and now as head of one of the most powerful committees on Capitol Hill (a stick he has wielded successfully to stall enforcement of an act of Congress going on two years now: I’m speaking of UIGEA, of course).
And he did find time to get to Vegas last year to kick off the World Series of Poker, where he was cheered.
I don’t get it. It’s like an obsession with him. Maybe a little like my dismay over the death of the public option in the Senate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting myself up there on Barney’s level. Members of Congress have the best medical insurance money can buy.